State of the City
Another year has come to a close and it has been my pleasure to serve as your mayor this past year. I am honored to share with you the State of the City, where I have the opportunity to revisit accomplishments and the general health of city departments for the year 2022.
I am proud to have started 2022 off in the new City Hall on Main Street. Relocating city buildings to Main Street was long overdue and is an important component to continue the momentum of revitalizing downtown. The police station and City Council Chambers are now also located on Main Street. Moving city offices downtown opened up a prime location for a new business on Highway 59 and will generate revenue to the city for years to come, while giving the city the opportunity to fill an empty building on Main Street.
The city of Gravette performed well financially in 2022 despite the uncertainty in the economy and rising inflation. City staff is dedicated to responsible spending, and I appreciate their efforts to support the financial health of the city. The General Fund, Street Fund, and Water Fund all ended the year with a surplus. Having a small surplus each year allows the city to save for a rainy day , buy new equipment when needed, provide matching funds when required by grants, and help protect the city during recessionary times. This also shows the auditors that the city is fiscally responsible. The city is completely caught up on audits for both the General and Water funds.
PROJECTS – BOND AND GRANT
The Dallas Street and high school walk-bike trail are finally under construction after years of planning and unforeseen COVID related delays. This project is funded in part by a $400,000 grant from the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) administered by the Arkansas Department of Transportation and a nearly $409,000 grant from the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission. Pending no major delays, the high school walk-bike connector should be finished before the end of the school year and the Dallas Street connector should be finished before the start of the new school year.
Another walk-bike trail TAP grant in the amount of $300,000 was received to extend the current walk-bike trail system. This section will start at Main Street and Third Ave. NE and go north to Detroit Street. It will head east and connect to Walnut Creek subdivision behind the high school. This section of the walk-bike trail is in the engineering phase with work expected to steadily progress.
An aging and undersized 2-inch waterline in the Birmingham NE alleyway between Second Ave. SE and Eighth Ave. SE is currently being replaced with an appropriately sized 8-inch line thanks in part to a $300,000 grant from the Arkansas Community and Economic Development Program. Replacing this waterline will improve water pressure and flow to existing customers, reduce required repairs, and increase capacity for future users. This project is expected to be completed this spring.
The city received a generous donation of property that borders Hiwasse Park from Lawrence and Mary Holloway. Future plans for this property include construction of an emergency access road to make it easier for the fire apparatus housed in fire station two at Hiwasse Park to quickly access the highway.
Commercial development was strong in 2022. Dollar General opened two new locations in Gravette: one in east Gravette on Highway 72 and one on Highway 59. O’Reilly Auto Parts and RazorBox Storage both opened for business. New Life Christian Church is building a large new complex in northern Gravette. On the residential side, all lots in Teri’s Place subdivision off Dallas Street SW have homes nearing completion or recently completed. Jenna Estates subdivision on Highway 72 in east Gravette has started construction of several new homes with large lots. Infill lots continue to be developed around town.
The city is working with Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission to update the city’s comprehensive plan. A comprehensive plan serves as a statement of policy for directing orderly growth and development and is intended to guide the decisions of the Planning Commission and City Council. In many ways, it is a vision for the city. A public input meeting will happen later in the spring, and I hope you’ll consider attending and offering your feedback.
Garver has been retained to help update the city’s zoning code which is from 1998. For many years, the current code served the needs of the city, but with an anticipated steady increase in commercial and residential construction, it is imperative that the zoning code support responsible, orderly growth that allows the city to retain its charm and character while supporting residents and businesses. This project should be completed later this year and opportunities for public input will be announced in the coming months.
One of the most impactful projects accomplished in 2022 is the codification of city ordinances. This makes ordinances easier to search and empowers citizens to quickly find information. You can explore this new search format at https://www.gravettear.com/official-records.
The Gravette Fire Department responded to 964 calls in 2022, a 10% increase in calls from 2021. They responded to fires with a pre-incident value of over $15,000,000 and saved $14,720,000 in property. The department received a $15,000 grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Division of Rural Services, that was used to purchase eight full sets of turnout gear to help protect firefighters. Particulate Nomex hoods were included in this order and will decrease carcinogen exposure. The new ambulance was stocked and inspected by the state and placed into service in March 2022. A county owned tanker/pumper was received by the fire department in February 2022 and replaced an 80s model Mack tanker. This unit is used to cover the Hiwasse area. Thanks to a rigorous fire academy hosted by the department, nearly all volunteers are firefighter one and two certified.
The Gravette Police Department completed 2,355 training hours in 2022, which is nearly double the amount obtained in 2021. Training completed by officers in 2022 included the FBI-LEEDA Supervisor Leadership Institute and Executive Leadership Institute, the Safe Schools conference, ALICE training, Reid Interview and Advanced Interrogation, and many more valuable sessions. I am proud of the department’s continued efforts to ensure officers are well trained for a variety of situations. The department put a flashing speed limit sign into service to provide motorists with a gentle reminder of the speed limit. This unit is mobile and can be moved around town.
WATER, SEWER, AND STREETS
The purchase of a hydro excavator has made it easier and safer for the water and sewer department to excavate near and around other utility lines, street signs, and tight spaces. It is also being used to pump lift stations down and overall has improved the efficiency of the department. A specialized bacteria used to remove excess buildup of solids in the sewer lagoons was introduced over the summer. This will help the wastewater plant be more efficient and ensure capacity will be adequate for the increased usage in the years to come. The bacteria will continue to be added throughout the year and progress will be monitored.
Grant funding applications were accepted from the state for water, wastewater, and stormwater projects as part of the funding received from the American Rescue Plan. The city applied for funding to extend sewer east toward the Hiwasse area. Unfortunately, our project was not selected, but I am committed to exploring and pursuing all opportunities to extend sewer to the east.
Safety concerns on Highway 72 were brought to the attention of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. I am pleased to report that ARDOT has committed to:
· Install signage on Highway 72 near Old Town Park to alert drivers to the winding road
· Increase the turn radius at the four-way intersection of Highways 72 and 59
· Coordinate with the city on crosswalk improvements on Highway 72 between Second Ave. and Park Dr./Sixth Ave.
· Rework the northbound exit ramp from Interstate 49 to westbound Highway 72 to provide for a better sightline
I requested consideration of a turn lane on Highway 72 near Stage Coach Road, but unfortunately, ARDOT determined that a turn lane is not warranted at this time. I will continue to advocate for highway safety improvements where necessary and am proud of the strong working relationship the city has with ARDOT.
Asphalt overlays are planned this year for portions of Second Ave. NE, Dallas St. SW, Persimmon St. SW, Meadowmere St., Sixth Ave. SE, Third Ave. SW, Fourth Ave. SW, Galveston St. SW, Fifth Ave. SW, Charlotte St. SW, Third Ave. SE, Akron St. NE, and Fifth Ave. NE, contingent on final bids and pricing. These improvements are made possible thanks to a $300,000 grant from the Arkansas State Aid Street Committee.
In partnership with the Gravette Public Library, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and Trike Theatre presented programs at Gravette parks over the summer. A record number of children participated in the summer reading program. Moon Over Main Street also saw record attendance and the library, which was selected for participation in NASA @ My Library, hosted presentations including first images from the James Webb Space Telescope. StoryWalk®, a collaborative effort of the library, parks department and police department, was installed at Hiwasse Park. The library received $15,261 in grants and donations.
I would like to give special thanks to city staff, Council Members, the Library Advisory Board, the Museum Commission, and the Planning Commission for their efforts to make Gravette a fantastic place to live. I look forward to continuing our work over the next four years.
Kurt Maddox, Mayor